Tagged in: Lakers

Kyrie Irving says he’s opting in to $36.5 million option with Brooklyn Nets

Kyrie Irving is opting in to his $36.5 million option with the Brooklyn Nets for next season, he told The Athletic on Monday.

“Normal people keep the world going, but those who dare to be different lead us into tomorrow,” Irving told The Athletic. “I’ve made my decision to opt in. See you in the fall. A11even.”

Irving had created a list of teams he would have liked the Nets to consider working with on a sign-and-trade deal if they couldn’t agree on terms for him to stay in Brooklyn, but the Los Angeles Lakers were the only team known to be interested.

Without the ability to find a sign-and-trade deal, Irving plans to exercise his player option, sources confirmed. He has until 5 p.m. ET on Wednesday to file to paperwork to opt in.

Irving is now no longer eligible for a sign-and-trade deal.

The Nets could still work to trade him as an expiring contract, but Irving would have no formal voice in a potential landing spot. He has until June 30 of next year to work out an extension with the Nets before becoming an unrestricted free agent.

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Irving, 30, averaged 27.4 points, 5.8 assists and 4.4 rebounds last season but only played in 29 regular-season games. By deciding not to get vaccinated against COVID-19, Irving was ineligible to play in New York City because of a city vaccination mandate for employees.

When he did play, Irving reminded everyone just how talented he still is, as evidenced by a stretch in March and April when he scored at least 40 points in four games, including 60 during a March 15 win over the Orlando Magic.

There were usually large gaps in between when he could play in the schedule, until New York City mayor Eric Adams reversed course in late March and allowed a vaccination exemption for athletes and performers. Irving played in all four games of the Nets’ first-round loss to the Boston Celtics in the playoffs.

A seven-time All-Star and three-time All-NBA selection, Irving has averaged 27.1 points and 6 assists while shooting 49% from the field and 40.6% from 3 over the past three seasons. But due to a variety of injuries and other issues off the floor, he has played in just 103 regular-season games over that span.

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Kendrick Nunn, 26, opts into final year of contract with Los Angeles Lakers

Kendrick Nunn, who missed all of last season because of a bone bruise in his right knee, is opting into the final year of his contract with the Los Angeles Lakers worth $5.25 million, sources told ESPN on Tuesday.

Nunn, who turns 27 this summer, signed with Los Angeles for the midlevel exception last summer but never played a match during the regular season after injuring an ankle during training camp and later discovering the bone bruise, which was slow to heal.

The Chicago product came into the league undrafted out of Oakland and latched onto the Miami Heat, averaging 15 points on 36.4% from 3 and 88.1% from the foul line in two seasons, along with 3.0 assists and 2.9 rebounds per game.

During his exit interview with reporters in April, Nunn announced his plan to return to Los Angeles.

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“Knowing that I just took this entire year off, it’s a no-brainer for me to opt in,” Nunn said.

Nunn’s decision puts the Lakers at five guaranteed contracts on the books for next season, along with LeBron James ($44.47 million), Anthony Davis ($37.98 million), Talen Horton-Tucker ($10.26 million) and Austin Reaves ($1.56 million).

Russell Westbrook, entering into the final year of his deal worth $47.06 million, has until June 29 to inform L.A. whether he intends to opt in or not.

Los Angeles also has team options on Stanley Johnson ($2.35 million) and Wenyen Gabriel ($1.88 million) for next campaign.

Even if the Lakers exercise those options, the front office will still have half the roster to fill out this summer as it looks to regroup from one of the most disappointing seasons in franchise history (33-49 in 2021-22).

In other Lakers news, the team is hiring Nets assistant coach Jordan Ott for a more prominent role on Darvin Ham’s new staff.

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Los Angeles Lakers fire Frank Vogel after disappointing 33-49 season

The Los Angeles Lakers fired Frank Vogel on Monday, choosing their title-winning head coach to take the fall for one of the most disappointing campaigns in NBA history.

Vogel was under contract through next season, but almost nothing has gone right over the past two seasons for the rosters assembled by vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka and coached by Vogel, who went 127-98 in his three seasons running the club.

Pelinka declined to elaborate Monday on why he and owner Jeanie Buss felt Vogel needed to be fired.

“Today is not going to be a day of finger-pointing and unwinding all the specific reasons,” Pelinka said. “We just felt organizationally, at the highest level, it was time for a new voice. … That’s not to say anything against the incredible accomplishments that Frank Vogel has had. He was a great coach here, and he’s going to go on to be a great coach somewhere else.”

Pelinka doesn’t plan to replace Vogel right away, and he said he hasn’t even assembled a list of potential candidates. The GM said it “would be great” to have a coach in place before the draft in June, but that the Lakers’ search will be “thorough and methodical.”

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The Lakers have not dismissed any of Vogel’s coaching staff at this time, league sources told ESPN’s Dave McMenamin.

The Lakers concluded the 2021-22 season with a 33-49 record, failing to qualify for the play-in tournament.

“This was a disappointing Lakers season at every level,” Pelinka said. “In the face of disappointment, our fans expect more, and that’s in every facet. It starts in the front office led by me, and our ability to construct the right roster. It starts with the coaches holding players accountable and making sure there’s on-court execution.”

Continuity was a constant challenge for Vogel and the Lakers this season, as they had to contend with injuries to stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis and a roster construction with challenges that included limited shooting and athleticism.

James spoke to the media Monday morning before Vogel’s fate was revealed by the Lakers’ front office.

“I respect Frank as a coach, as a man,” James said. “Our partnership that we’ve had over the few years here has been nothing but candid, and great conversations. This is a guy that gives everything to the game and prepared us every single night. … I don’t know what’s going to happen with Frank being here, but I’ve got nothing but respect for him.”

Los Angeles was the only team to not have a single five-man lineup play 100 minutes together, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. Despite entering the season with high expectations, the Lakers were only able to have James, Davis and Russell Westbrook on the floor together for 21 games. They went 11-10 in those contests.

The Lakers finished the season in the bottom 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency, ranking 21st in defensive rating after finishing first in 2020-21 and third in 2019-20.

L.A. lost 18 of 24 matches following the All-Star break, with only the Portland Trail Blazers, Houston Rockets and Indiana Pacers finishing with worse records during that span.

Vogel was hired in May 2019 to assemble a cohesive team around James and Davis, who was officially acquired from the New Orleans Pelicans two months later. Vogel’s plans worked right away: His first team weathered the NBA’s COVID-19 shutdown and then won the Lakers’ 17th NBA championship in the Orlando bubble.

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Los Angeles Lakers stumble out of play-in position, now 11th in Western Conference

For the first time since the first week of the regular season, the Los Angeles Lakers find themselves on the outside of the play-in tournament looking in after Tuesday night’s 128-110 loss to the Dallas Mavericks.

Playing without LeBron James (left ankle sprain) and Anthony Davis (right mid-foot sprain), the Lakers trailed by as many as 37 points as Luka Doncic recorded a 30-point triple-double through the first three quarters (34 points, 12 rebounds, 12 assists).

“We just didn’t execute well enough and play with enough toughness, IQ, intelligence, focus and fight,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel stated. “So, not acceptable and just a poor performance across the board. Coaches, players, everybody.”

L.A. is currently No. 11 in the Western Conference with seven games left. The Lakers, at 31-44, have the same record as the No. 10 San Antonio Spurs, but the Spurs own the tiebreaker. Looking ahead to the final stretch, the Lakers have gone 4-10 against their six remaining opponents (they play the Denver Nuggets twice).

The Spurs have gone 5-11 against their six remaining adversaries (they play the Portland Trail Blazers twice). The Nuggets (45-31) are No. 6 in the Western Conference standings. The Blazers (27-48) are No. 12 and will be out their star, Damian Lillard, for the rest of the season.

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Vogel said James and Davis will both be re-evaluated Thursday to determine their availability for L.A.’s game against the Utah Jazz on Thursday night.

Davis, who has been sidelined since Feb. 16, is targeting a return by Friday at home versus the No. 9 New Orleans Pelicans, sources told ESPN.

Tuesday was about as bad as it has been for the Lakers in a season already full of disappointment. The 82 points they allowed in the first half were the second-most points allowed in a first half in franchise history, narrowly avoiding the record set when the Boston Celtics hung 83 on them in the first half on Feb. 27, 1959, according to data compiled by ESPN Stats & Info.

L.A.’s 26-point halftime deficit Tuesday combined with the 28 points the Pelicans outscored them by in the second half on Sunday represented the worst points differential, minus-54, over a two-half span for the Lakers in the shot-clock era.

“The standings are the results,” Vogel said when asked if falling out of the play-in ups the Lakers’ urgency. “We have to keep our focus on the process and the work and the things that are going to lead to the next win. That’s the only place that our focus will be.”

Russell Westbrook, who had 25 points, eight rebounds and six assists but was part of L.A. being outscored by 25 points in the 32 minutes he was on the floor, added another contentious postgame exchange with a reporter to his season resume.

As the exchange continued for a few more moments, Westbrook noticed a video camera pointed in his direction and changed his tone, offering a half-hug to the reporter, before leaving the room.

“We cool,” he said. “Y’all gotta make sure to record that.”

The Lakers are now 4-13 since the All-Star break, which is on pace to be the franchise’s second-lowest win percentage post All-Star break in team history.

“We just got our butt whooped. Straight up,” Stanley Johnson said. “So, whatever spirit or whatever, they kicked our ass. It was 30 points pretty much the whole game. I don’t know how else you want to put it. We got to be a lot better than that.”

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Rookie Green has 32 as Rockets down Lakers in OT, 139-130

Rookie Jalen Green scored a career-high 32 points, including 10 in overtime, and the Houston Rockets outlasted the slumping Los Angeles Lakers for a 139-130 victory Wednesday night.

The Rockets, who have the worst record in the Western Conference, withstood a triple-double from LeBron James and 30 points from Russell Westbrook to get just their second win in 15 games.

The loss is the ninth straight on the road for the Lakers, who have dropped six of their last seven games and are running out of time to get things together before the playoffs start.

Green, the second overall pick in the draft, opened overtime with a layup before adding a 3-pointer and then swishing a hook shot soon after that to make it 127-120. Eric Gordon added a 3-pointer to push the lead to 10 before the Lakers finally scored in the extra period on a basket by Westbrook with 2 1/2 minutes to go.

But the Rockets used a 6-3 run with 3s from Kenyon Martin Jr. and Green around a 3 from James to extend the lead to 136-125 with a minute left in OT and seal the victory.

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James had 23 points, 14 rebounds and a season-high 12 assists for his fifth triple-double of the season. But his career-long streak of consecutive games with 25 points ended at 23 games on a night he was 9 of 26 overall and made just 1 of 9 3-pointers.

It was his first game since scoring a season-high 56 points Saturday night after he sat out Monday at San Antonio with a sore left knee.

Rookie Alperen Sengun set career-highs with 21 points and 15 rebounds to help the Rockets to the win.

A jump shot by Westbrook tied it at 120-all with a minute to go but he missed a shot a few seconds later to give Houston the ball back.

Green missed a layup under heavy pressure from James to give the Lakers another shot to take the lead.

James missed an off-balance shot in the lane with 17 seconds left but officials ruled that Houston knocked the ball out of bounds while vying for the rebound. The Rockets challenged the call, but it was upheld.

James drove into the lane and dished to Carmelo Anthony in the corner for the final shot of regulation, but his 3-point attempt was off to send it to OT.

A 5-2 spurt by the Rockets later in the fourth tied it up, but James drove into the lane and finished with a monster, one-handed dunk to put the Lakers up 113-111 with 5 ½ minutes to go.

Los Angeles trailed by 1 with about three minutes left when James made 1 of 2 free throws to make it 118-116.

Green scored four quick points to give the Rockets a 120-118 lead with about two minutes left. He made two free throws and then grabbed a rebound on the other end and finished with a jumper to put Houston on top.

Houston led by 3 late in the third quarter but the Lakers scored the last four points of the period to take a 98-97 lead into the fourth.

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LeBron James, thrilled to be ‘able to play basketball,’ steers Los Angeles Lakers to victory in return

LeBron James picked things back up right where he left them, continuing his offensive surge with 29 points in the Los Angeles Lakers’ 122-115 overtime victory over the New York Knicks on Saturday following a five-game absence with swelling in his left knee.

“After the first quarter, the knee loosened up a lot more,” James said after accompanying the points with 13 rebounds and 10 assists to notch his 103rd career triple-double. “My mind loosened up a lot more. And I was just able to play basketball. But just excited to be back in the uniform, back on the floor with my guys. Missed them, missed the game. I was happy I was able to make a few plays and help us win a ballgame.”

Los Angeles went 1-4 without him and his return initially didn’t seem to do much to impact that trend as the Knicks led 42-29 after the first quarter. But James, who stated he “didn’t feel that great” during his pregame warmup as he attempted to play a game for the first time in a week and a half, got it going and so did his team, coming back from as many as 21 points, accounting for the franchise’s biggest comeback since December 2015.

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“It’s a hell of a return,” said Anthony Davis who put up 28 points, 17 rebounds and four blocks. “He’s doing LeBron-type things. Expected nothing less from him. Efficient from the field. S—, he did what he’s supposed to do. He helped us, for sure. So, I missed him. He’s a big part of our team with his voice, his leadership, play-making ability. And he came back and showed it.”

James extended his streak of scoring 25-plus points to 19 games, the second longest streak of that nature of his 19-year career.

He played 39 minutes and 55 seconds on Saturday, which Lakers coach Frank Vogel admitted was more than he wanted to play the 37-year old in his first game back.

“He’s incredible,” Vogel said. “I guess the time off served him well. We didn’t want to play him 39 minutes and obviously the overtime impacted that, but just played a great basketball game. His defensive competitive spirit and IQ is everything to us and the way he scores the basketball in all ways and the way he sets up teammates it’s just, it’s rare and he was special tonight. Just a great performance.”

While James was out, one of his professional athlete peers, Tom Brady of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, retired after 22 seasons in the NFL.

“I personally was just so in shock when I saw it … as a guy who’s kind of been my motivation factor over the last few years, seeing what he’s able to do at his age and always kind of being a leader of a team and even at his age people still gravitate towards him and gravitate towards his energy and how he prepares and things of that nature,” James said. “So, a small piece of me definitely left when Brady decided to retire, that’s for sure.”

James has one more season on his deal with the Lakers, that will take him through 20 seasons in the NBA.

Even at this stage of his career, there’s no disputing his importance to the Lakers. He was a plus-12 in the minutes he appeared on the court, and he played all but one minute and 29 seconds of the fourth quarter and overtime to close things out.

“I mean obviously the computer — his ability to process and read offensively, it’s something that’s always missed,” Vogel said. “You miss him on both ends, but I would say in this situation, late game, that’s where you miss him the most.”

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Cavaliers trade for Lakers guard Rajon Rondo after Ricky Rubio’s ACL injury

With Ricky Rubio now out for the season, the Cleveland Cavaliers are apparently turning to Rajon Rondo for help.

The Cavaliers got the Los Angeles Lakers guard in a trade on Friday, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and The Athletic’s Shams Charania. Guard Denzel Valentine will head to the Lakers as part of the deal.

The Lakers are expected to waive Valentine’s partially guaranteed deal to open a roster spot, per Wojnarowski.

Rubio, late in the Cavaliers’ loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday, collapsed to the court after his left knee buckled trying to drive through the lane. He had to be helped off the court and into the locker room, and an MRI the next day revealed that he had torn his left ACL.

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Rubio was just one assist shy of a triple-double versus the Pelicans.

The 31-year-old averaged 13.1 points and 6.6 assists per game this season, his first with the Cavaliers after spending last season back with the Timberwolves — who first drafted him out of Spain with the No. 5 overall pick in 2009.

Rondo has averaged 3.1 points and 3.7 assists in 18 games with the Lakers this season. The jump to Cleveland will mark the ninth team Rondo has played for since the 2014-15 season, when he was with the Boston Celtics. Rondo is presently on a one-year, $2.6 million deal with the Lakers.

The 35-year-old hasn’t played for the Lakers since before Christmas and is currently in the NBA’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols. He’ll need to clear protocols before he can join the Cavaliers. 

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Booker, Ayton push Suns past Lakers 108-90

Devin Booker continued to distance himself from a hamstring injury that cost him seven games, scoring 24 points with nine rebounds and seven assists as the Phoenix Suns earned a 108-90 victory Tuesday night over the Los Angeles Lakers.

Booker played 32 minutes and went 8 of 16 from the field one game after he was on the court for 26 minutes in his return Sunday during a blowout triumph over the Charlotte Hornets.

“I feel great, man, and I think every game it’s going to feel better,” Booker said. “I’m just getting some runs up under me but we have a good team that makes it easy to mesh with and get back with. When you have the support of all 15 guys, plus the coaching staff, it gives you a lot more confidence when you’re out there.”

Deandre Ayton had 19 points and 11 rebounds, and Mikal Bridges scored 14 as the Suns won their fourth straight game and improved to 2-2 on the road since the end of their 18-game winning streak Dec. 3.

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LeBron James scored 34 points for the Lakers, who lost their third game in a row as coach Frank Vogel remained in health and safety protocols for the second straight.

Four Lakers players also are in protocols, including starting guard Avery Bradley.

“Obviously, we are in a rough patch right now with guys in and out of protocol, guys who are injured,” James said. “We just have to stay together until we become whole, or as whole as possible. But I love our fight. I thought we had a good fight tonight, we just couldn’t make enough plays.”

Russell Westbrook had 22 points and 10 rebounds for the Lakers, who were without star Anthony Davis for the second consecutive game. Davis is expected to miss at least four weeks with an MCL sprain in his left knee.

James injured his left ankle with 6:05 left in the third quarter when he came down on the right foot of the Suns’ Jae Crowder. He remained in the game but looked hobbled the rest of the way.

“Yeah, I’ll be ready for next game,” James said.

Losing Booker for 2 1/2 weeks could have sent the Suns spiraling backward, but they found success and still hold the best record in the NBA as Christmas approaches.

“I think a big part of it comes down to our team culture, how guys step into situations and we remain ourselves,” said Cameron Johnson, who also had 14 points.

“You can see our identity on the court when we have everybody. It’s a group of guys that likes playing together and we play for each other.”

After a slow start and a 54-52 lead at halftime, the Suns led by as many as 13 in the third quarter on two occasions and carried an 85-73 lead into the fourth. The Lakers’ Carmelo Anthony was ejected in the third period when he argued a non-call after a shot attempt and received his second technical.

Phoenix’s lead reached 20 points for the first time at 100-80 with 5:17 remaining on Johnson’s 3-pointer.

Chris Paul had 11 points and nine assists for the Suns, who face the Oklahoma City Thunder at home Thursday before their Christmas showdown in Phoenix versus the Golden State Warriors. JaVale McGee had 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Veteran guard Isaiah Thomas scored three points on 1-of-11 shooting in his third game since signing with the Lakers on Friday. Talen Horton-Tucker had three points on 1-of-13 shooting for Los Angeles in his first game back from health and safety protocols.

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DeRozan leads Bulls over Lakers 115-110 in team’s return

DeMar DeRozan scored 38 points after missing two weeks in the NBA’s health and safety protocols, leading the Chicago Bulls to a 115-110 triumph over the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday night.

Nikola Vucevic had 19 points and 13 rebounds, and Lonzo Ball added 19 points as the Bulls snapped a two-game losing streak. It was Chicago’s first match since Dec. 11 after two were postponed.

LeBron James had 31 points, Carmelo Anthony added 21 and Russell Westbrook 20 as Los Angeles dropped its second straight.

With the Bulls trailing by a point in the final minute, DeRozan hit an 18-footer for a 111-110 lead with 52 seconds remaining. Following a Lakers miss, DeRozan missed a shot but then was fouled with 15.6 seconds left after Ball grabbed the offensive rebound. DeRozan then hit both free throws for a 113-110 edge.

Like much of the first two months of the season, the Bulls turned to DeRozan in crunch time and he delivered.

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“It’s an honor to be trusted in those moments,” he said. “I never take it for granted. It’s an adrenaline rush that you can’t duplicate, so you try to make the most of it every time you’re put in that position. There’s nothing like it. You’ve got to take the good with the bad, and I’m willing to take both.”

Before having two matches postponed last week due to a COVID-19 outbreak, the Bulls had 10 players in the health and safety protocols. That number is down to four right now, including All-Star Zach LaVine.

Although the Lakers haven’t had any games postponed, they currently have six players — Kent Bazemore, Avery Bradley, Talen Horton-Tucker. Dwight Howard, Malik Monk and Austin Reaves — and coach Frank Vogel in the health and safety protocols.

Assistant David Fizdale served as coach on Sunday.

It also was Los Angeles’ first match since forward Anthony Davis sprained his left knee on Friday. He is expected to miss four weeks.

“Obviously we’re doing things on the fly, figuring out how to play with the lineups we have and the people we have available,” Westbrook said. “New guys are stepping in here, so we’ve got to do what we can. That’s it. You’ve just got to play hard and let the rest take care of itself.”

Chicago led nearly the entire first half and by as much as 10 points before taking a 61-59 halftime lead. The Lakers went ahead 65-64 early in the third quarter on a floater by Isaiah Thomas.

The teams traded baskets and leads for the remainder of the quarter before Los Angeles took an 84-83 advantage into the fourth.

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Knicks recover to beat Lakers team missing suspended James

Evan Fournier scored 26 points, Immanuel Quickley had 12 of his 14 in the fourth quarter after New York had blown a 25-point lead, and the Knicks defeated a Los Angeles Lakers team missing suspended star LeBron James 106-100 on Tuesday night.

Julius Randle added 20 points, 16 rebounds and five assists for the Knicks, but sat for eight minutes of the fourth quarter after picking up his fifth foul. Quickley made sure that didn’t matter, hitting four 3-pointers in the period.

Russell Westbrook had 31 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists, with 18 points in a sensational third quarter that permitted the Lakers to tie the game. But with James not in the arena, Anthony Davis struggling through an illness and Carmelo Anthony’s shot off in his old home, the Lakers never could take the lead.

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They beat Detroit on Sunday after overcoming a 17-point deficit in the game James was ejected from for striking Pistons center Isaiah Stewart in the face and drawing blood.

The NBA suspended the superstar forward for one match.

But the best Los Angeles could do in this one was tie it twice after New York dominated most of the first two quarters.

Davis, who woke up with a fever, had 20 points on 7-for-17 shooting. Anthony was just 3 of 14 for 12 points, and the Lakers lost for the fourth time in five games.

Randle went to the bench with his fifth foul with 9:18 remaining and was hit with a technical foul from there that allowed the Lakers to cut it to 90-87. But Obi Toppin scored before Quickley made a 3-pointer to push it back to eight, and it was back into double digits when another 3 by Quickley made it 105-93 with 4:58 to play.

The Knicks raced to a 10-0 lead that grew to 36-15 on RJ Barrett’s 3-pointer with 1:11 left in the first quarter. It was 59-35 with under 5 minutes left in the half before the Lakers put together a 16-2 run that trimmed it to 61-51 just before the break.

The Lakers scored nine consecutive to open the third and cut it to 63-60, and finally tied it for the first time at 79 on Anthony’s dunk.

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